"Profitable conservation" was how José Koechlin described the work he has been doing since 1975 through Inkaterra, the first hotel company in the world to receive international sustainable tourism certification, in the form of the Green Choice Sustainable Tourism Standard granted by Control Union.
In 1975, Koechlin built the first Inkaterra hotel in a primary forest area in which only 8,000 inhabitants were dispersed over an area of 84,000 square kilometers. This marked the first concession granted by the Peruvian government for tourism development. Because of a lack of mechanical resources, the hotel was built with axes and machetes alone.
Today, Inkaterra operates seven hotels, located in Tambopata, the Sacred Valley of the Incas, Cusco, and Machu Picchu. Its annual influx of tourists accounts for 15 percent of Peru's leisure tourism. This has had a positive impact on the economic wellbeing of more than 100,000 people in the communities nearby; since its foundation, Inkaterra has trained more than 4,000 local residents in specialties such as hoteliery, field guiding, and agroforestry.
Inkaterra is much more than just a chain of luxury hotel services, having earned international distinction for the ecotourism it offers. This proclamation is attested by prizes such as Relais & Châteaux Environmental Trophy, the WTTC Tourism for Tomorrow Awards in the conservation category, Travel + Leisure Global Vision award, and National Geographic Best Practices awards for Sustainable Travel, among others.
In one of the 12 most megadiverse countries in the world, in which tourism constitutes the third-largest economic activity (2.2 billion USD per year), Koechlin has encouraged government bodies, universities, researchers, the private sector, and local communities to create an economic model based on value enhancement of natural resources, thereby opening up new markets and generating development.
Koechlin’s holistic approach generates value not only in the areas where Inkaterra's seven hotels operate—by fostering scientific research and contributing to the conservation of biodiversity, education, and the economic growth of local communities—but also throughout the Peruvian tourist industry, which represents more than 1 million jobs per year.
Koechlin has twice received the SAHIC award for Best Tourism Developer, has been president of the National Chamber of Tourism, is currently president of the Society of Hotels of Peru (which groups together the top 25 brands of Peru), and is an emeritus member of Conservation International.
Koechlin is an entrepreneur, an innovator with a conviction that tourism-approached sustainably can contribute to social, economic, and environmental development. He is a champion of Peruvian biodiversity and culture. He has sponsored, written, and edited books on the treasures of Peru, in addition to producing films, documentaries, and albums that promote Peruvian tourism and music.